How does Christianity differ from other religions?


#1

Christianity differs from all other religions in three areas.

The first area is the love, humility and faithfulness of God. Christianity teaches that God loves us so greatly, that although we were unfaithful to Him and betrayed Him He humbled Himself and took a human form and sacrificed His life to save us from eternal death and bring us forgiveness of our sins (John 3:16).

The second area is the about Christian life. As Christians we have to love others the way God loves us (John 15:12). We have to love our enemies, do good deeds for them and pray for them; if someone takes our coat, give them our shirt as well; offer the other cheek if someone slaps us on one; lend and do not expect it back; and be merciful like our heavenly Father (Luke6:27-36). Furthermore, we have to forgive our enemies unceasingly (Luke 17:4); not pay evil with evil, never take revenge; feed our enemy; not allow evil to defeat us; and over come evil with good (Romans 12: 17-21). Furthermore, legal dispute is incompatible with Christianity; and it is better for us to be wronged or robbed than to wrong others or rob them (1 Cor. 6:7).

Third area is about marriage. We are to love our spouse the same way as Christ loves His Church (Ephesians 5:25). Christ never abandons His Church. We, therefore, can never divorce our spouse. Furthermore, when we marry, we and our spouse become one. It is therefore, a one to one relationship. Remarriage after divorce, therefore, is adultery; and a person can have only one spouse (Mk 10:11-12, Luke 6:18; Matthew 5: 31-32).

Are there any other areas?


#2

We believe in an omniscient, purposeful, thinking God. I was in a discussion with someone who said the Genesis account “Isn’t different from other creation stories”.
But it is very different. One myth says the earth came about as the result of an accident. Another says God made three people, the first two being made wrongly, and others make the creation the work of many rival gods, each trying to undo or outdo another’s handiwork. An ancient story says mankind was made as slave labor for one of the gods. Others say we just accidentally grew out of some being or object on our own.
Genesis, however, tells us that there is one God, He made us as the crown of creation, He loved us from the beginning, we are made in His image, He knew what He was doing and made us right the first time, and we all came from two ancestors, which means we are all one family.


#3

Christianity differs from other religions in a very significant way. Many religions believe in one God or that God is love. People even on their own instinctively often believe this that God is love and that there is one almighty God.

Christianity differs in that it believes this above plus it believes that God has taken the form of a human and come and lived with us in our history on our earth. This brings God into our realm. It is the light has come into the world.

This offers possiblities that are not in other religions. In other religions one can serve God in one’s heart as the Jews did in the old testiment however one cannot do something directly to God. With Christianity God is in our physical world. We can now spiritually and physically do things to God. John writes, “He who does what is true comes to the light that his deeds may become manifested as having been wrought in God”.

All people Christian or not are always connected with God in their hearts. They may not obey God but God is there. With Christianity one can gain a more complete union with God in which God can work directly thought the individual as the individual can do things straight for Jesus in others.

Other religions even though one does things for God in their hearts in the action it is not straight for God as without Jesus God is not something that can be directly served. With Jesus God can be directly served.


#4

Unlike Buddhism we do believe in a Personal God, an attribute we share with the two other monotheistic religions professing a Personal God – Islam and Judaism.

Unlike Buddhism and Hinduism (which are NOT monotheistic religions) we do not believe in an endless cycles of births and rebirths (reincarnation or transmigration of souls) as we believe each human being is made in the Image of God and has but one soul with one life. To simplify things, they believe we are stuck in an endless cycle of births and rebirths (samsara until one finds liberation from this endless cycle in Moksha, or in the case of Buddhism finds Nirvana. Buddhism unlike Hinduism is considered atheistic by many without belief in a soul by some. This idea of reincarnation may actually have already been believed by the local Dravidian population before the Aryans arrived in 1500 B.C. and who also adopted it into Hinduism. Again, I think reincarnation originated here simply because without Jesus and his redemptive suffering, it was hard to understand why some suffer and others do not unless they had accumulated some karma from a past life.

With the law of Karma in effect, if we do bad in this world, we come back in the next in a worse situation in order to learn another lesson. Some have hinted as this being almost-fatalistic: ah, that personal with cerebral palsy must have committed bad karma in his previous life. I believe reincarnation entered into the Eastern religions originally because it dealt with as they could understand it the question of suffering. This person must be suffering because of his/her karma, and hopefully will find a life of less suffering in the next and learn lessons to take one closer to Moksha. In Christianity we believe there is a difference in kind between humans and animals and not degree as Hindus suggest one may return to earth as an animal, (monkey, etc) or even an inanimate object. We believe man to be unique and made in God’s image.

In Christianity, this never popped up because we don’t believe that anyone suffers for actions committed in some hypothetical earlier incarnation of that person. We people suffering entered into the World through the Fall, that God has given us the “free will” to choose between right and wrong, and that Suffering is seen especially in Catholicism as a result of our Fall, and that suffering has strong redemptive benefit in reconciling us to God and that carrying the Cross with Christ is needed so that we may help with redemption and rejoice with Christ in the afterlife. As St. Paul said of suffering: “For when I am weak, I am strong”.

We do not teach as Buddhism that suffering is to be conquered by following the 4 Noble Truths and realizing that suffering is illusory if one follows the belief that personal desires are at the root of suffering. Eliminate personal desire, and suffering diminishes, according to Buddhism. Buddhism’s goal of the endpoint being Nirvana is quite complex and one may come across different views of it as it being like the “blowing out of a candle” or “extinguishment” of self. This is considered bliss. (I realize I’m simplifying). We also do not share Buddhism’s belief that sin as we understand it doesn’t exist.

Unlike Confucianism, Christianity is not simply a belief in a philosophy that sees social stability as the main goal and teaches proper action.

Unlike Islam, Christianity has a plan for salvation, a Theology of Redemption, which Islam does not share with us. And plus they do not believe Jesus Christ God.

Unlike Judaism, we are a universal religion open to all for in Christ there is no gentile or jew, scythian or Greek, master or slave. All are invited to join Christ and His Church for Christ died for All sinners; we do not confine ourselves to one people.

Hope this helps and that I have not offended anyone.


#5

From the Buddhist point of view one major difference is the attitude to change. Christianity sees God as fundamentally unchanging; the appearance of change we see in the world is a veneer laid over the surface of an unchanging reality. In very simplified Thomist terms, the Substance is unchanging while the Accident may change.

Buddhism reverses this, the world is seen as fundamentally changing; the appearance of stasis is a veneer laid over the surface of a changing relity. In Thomist terms there is only Accident, what we percieve as Substance is not actually real, it is our misperception.The emptiness of emptiness is the fact that not even emptiness exists ultimately, that it is also dependent, conventional, nominal, and in the end it is just the everydayness of the everyday. Penetrating to the depths of being, we find ourselves back on the surface of things and so discover that there is nothing, after all, beneath those deceptive surfaces. Moreover, what is deceptive about them is simply the fact that we assume ontological depth lurking just beneath.

Jay Garfield, “Empty words, Buddhist philosophy and cross-cultural interpretation.” OUP 2002.
Apart from that KyivAndrew has given a good short summary of the other differences between the two religions. It is probably worth pointing out that the moralities of the two religions overlap to a much greater extent than their theologies.

rossum


#6

Here’s the most beautiful explanation I’ve heard about why Christianity differs from all the world’s religions.

It is offered by one of my favorite authors and lecturers, Dr. Peter Kreeft:

*…when it comes to knowing God, all the initiative has to be on His side. Even human reason is a divine revelation…so, this divine Truth that we long to know, we can’t know unless God initiates it. All the religions in the world look for ultimate truth. And they come up with very different notions of what it is: Is it a person? Is it one? Is it many? Is it good? Is it beyond good and evil? Is it a mode of consciousness? Is it being? Is it a kind of good order? Is it peace? What is it?

One religion is different than the others. The claim that Christianity is superior to all other religions (not that there’s no profound truth in other religions, there’s some profound truth everywhere)…but the claim - the unpopular claim - that Christianity is unique and superior in kind to all other religions in the world, is based on the fact that it has a different origin:

It is not man’s word about God, it is God’s word about man.

It is not our attempt to climb the hill of God by even the best human means - whether it be philosophy, or mystical experience…but rather it is the path that God made down the mountain. If all the religions of the world are like roads on a mountain, and there’s only one God and God is at the top of the mountain - which is a fair enough analogy - why aren’t are the roads equal? Simple. One goes down the others go up. And if that’s not true - if the Christian religion is not God’s way down the mountain - if Jesus Christ is not God’s word about man, but man’s word about God - then Christianity is a fake religion.*

The full talk within which this quote came can be found here. Link

Blessings.


#7

The easiest example I can think of is:

In Christianity, God became Man. For us human. (God came down to Earth Himself)

In Islam, God pass message through a prophet. (God stays up there)

In Judaism, God will sent a Messiah, the Messiah will be King of all Kings, POLITICALLY (God stays up there)

In Buddhism, .we aim to become one of the Gods.

In Hinduism, we aim to become one of the Gods.

In ancient Greek, God became man? Hercules? Wait, he’s a product of a God and a human. Half man half God. And it’s not for the sake of mankind. It’s simply Zeus having affair with a human, and Hera got very jealous (This isn’t same as the Disney Hercules). This is where it differs from Jesus, so equating Jesus and Hercules is totally false.

So not even one religion comes close to Christianity, where God became human and live in the lower human society, drink with tax collectors, drinkers, prostitutes, ride on a donkey, son of a carpenter, humiliated by being naked in the public, and yet He is a God.

Another thing I can think of is… Gospel is full of “human/emotions”… The Apostles fought with each other, got angry, want to “win” against each other, one of the Apostles commit suicide, hiding in fear of persecutions, John the Baptist got his head cut off. Nothing “heaven” by human standard/view of “happiness”.

And the idea of “happiness” in heaven differs greatly from other religion. There’s no food. No virgins. No sex. No money. Very different from what human think as “happy”.


#8

In Buddhism both the gods and ourselves are following the path to nirvana.

rossum


#9

oh my, forgive me.


#10

I just wanted to make a general comment. Other religions have marriage and speak about treating others kindly and being humble. I don’t see how the last two points are incompatible with Buddhism and Hinduism (as two examples of non-Christian religions). There are differences in the specifics, and maybe that is what you are interested in, but in general I would think that a Buddhist or Hindu would not disagree with Christians in general on those two points.


#11

Thank you rossum for not being offended by anything I wrote. I realize it’s difficult to defend one’s religion and simultaneously delineate differences with every other religion on the world in 8 paragraphs.:confused:

You’ve been around the board longer than I so I know you know our Catholic perspective is that we do not deny that other religions have elements of Truth in them, just that Christianity (Catholicism) is the Truth as we have it hear on earth. Having said that, on moralities and similarities, of course, C.S. Lewis always went to great extent to underline the similarities in world’s religions, what he called the Tao.

But I am glad that on these fora we can discuss and learn differences as well. Theologically speaking, the Cross is the center of Christianity, what T.S. Eliot called “the intersection of the timeless with time” in the Incarnation. It is the Cross which explains Christianity’s theodicy, for God so loved the world…and we are all to share in taking our individual crosses and following Christ if we are to share in His Glory. There of course is redemption in suffering for the Christian and yet as the Pope himself attested there is a “mysterium iniquitatis” to evil and human suffering. Perhaps, St. Paul touched upon this when he realized that though he begged Christ for a cure, Paul was not cured prompting him to assert that he learned from Christ that Christ is strongest in him when he is weak: “For when I am weak, I am strong.” We know that for all suffering there is a reason and that suffering has entered creation through the Fall.

I am quite interested in how Buddhism’s take on suffering is different from the Christian’s for this seems to me a point of particular contrast. I had a neigbour whom I grew up with who from birth had incapacitating epilepsy almost resistant to all treatment. He was also developmentally slow (they had a different word for it back then) and almost deaf from birth. Kids made fun of him relentlessly and his inability to speak properly or keep up in school. He cried a lot. He died last spring. He suffered a lot.

Now from the Christian perspective I look upon his suffering as not being a waste but that behind his life there was an invisible writing all the time to what redemptive purpose his suffering served. As Christ said that what you have done to the least of my brethren, you have done unto Me; in this respect, I saw in him Christ and believed it a sin to not empathize. If the Gospel Message if full of anything it is full of Love. It also acknowledges the power of suffering.

Now from the Buddhist perspective, I honestly wish to know, is it legitimate to ask why my said neighbor had to suffer so. I am sure Buddhist thinkers must consider teleology and purpose. How do Buddhism’s 4 Noble Truths on overcoming suffering apply to such an ill person. Such person can obviously not put the 4 Noble Truths into action in dealing with his suffering. So why did he suffer from Buddhism’s perspective. Bluntly speaking, is it Karma, that he is reaping something from a past life and being taught a lesson on the way to Nirvana? Is that the proximate cause of his suffering? Or is he being used as an example to others. Or is his suffering merely illusory to us and him? I can’t see his suffering being a product of self-desire which can be extinguished with self-denial. (forgive me if I’m not explaining myself well). I simply wish to know by what law and determination in the Buddhist sense should he have to suffer so, and does Love as we Christians understand it enter into the equation.

The chief attribute of the Holy Trinity I believe is Pure Incandescent Love for us, for all of us, especially the sick and the suffering. The least among you will be first in Heaven. Is there any Buddhist equivalent to this Christian emphasis on Love, or does Buddhism merely prescribe “right action” to deal with such suffering. Where is the Love, in the words of one song?

Hope I’ve explained myself well. I’m essentially dealing with theodicy but I don’t know if theodicy is applicable to Buddhism as one may be dealing with gods, no god, or force, I don’t know, but would appreciate an explanation in Buddhist thought as to “Why do certain people suffer who cannot even hope to learn the 4 Truths in their existence. Why are they suffering? Karma…a past life?”

Thanks if you get around to it. It would help enlighten me at least. God Bless.


#12

The standard description of suffering (dukkha) is:“Now this, monks, is the Noble Truth of dukkha: Birth is dukkha, aging is dukkha, death is dukkha; sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair are dukkha; association with the unbeloved is dukkha; separation from the loved is dukkha; not getting what is wanted is dukkha. In short, the five clinging-aggregates are dukkha.”

— Samyutta Nikaya 56.11
The meaning of dukkha can range from extreme pain to mild unsatisfactoriness. dukkha permeates every aspect of life - the reference to the “five clinging-aggregates” is to the Buddhist analysis of a human into five aggregates (form, feelings, perceptions, impulses and consciousness).

The root cause of this pervasive dukkha is desire. We usually want the world to be different from the way it is. We do not want aging, illness, death, sorrow, lamentation, pain etc. Because the world is not the way we want it to be we experience dukkha.

Now from the Buddhist perspective, I honestly wish to know, is it legitimate to ask why my said neighbor had to suffer so. I am sure Buddhist thinkers must consider teleology and purpose. How do Buddhism’s 4 Noble Truths on overcoming suffering apply to such an ill person.

The Four Noble Truths are laid out as an ancient Indian doctor would lay out a diagnosis:[list]*]state the problem: dukkha.
*]state the cause: craving.
*]state the curability: eliminating the craving will eliminate the dukkha.
*]provide the medicine: The Eightfold Path.[/list]
Your friend had the capacity to follow at least some of that. From your description he was following the Right Livelihood element of the Eightfold Path at the very least.

Such person can obviously not put the 4 Noble Truths into action in dealing with his suffering.

Within his limits he could do a little as with Right Livelihood.

So why did he suffer from Buddhism’s perspective.

Everybody suffers, so in that he was not exceptional. Different people suffer to different degrees, his degree was more than most other humans.

Bluntly speaking, is it Karma, that he is reaping something from a past life and being taught a lesson on the way to Nirvana? Is that the proximate cause of his suffering?

Bluntly yes:Mind precedes all conditions,
mind is their chief, they are mind-made.
If you speak or act with an evil mind then suffering will follow you,
as the wheel follows the draught ox.

Dhammapada 1:1
There is no sin in Buddhism so neither is there any forgiveness of sin. All actions have consequences. That is why mindfulness is emphasised in Buddhism; if you act unmindfully then you will suffer unwanted consequences.

Or is his suffering merely illusory to us and him?

External reality really exists, it is not illusory. However we can never fully sense external reality, all we can sense are electrical impulses coming into our brains along our sensory nerves. Those electrical impulses allow our brains to build a model of the external reality. The illusion is to mistake the internal model for the external reality - they are not the same thing.

I can’t see his suffering being a product of self-desire which can be extinguished with self-denial.

Our own suffering only exists in the model we carry within our heads. If we adjust our attitude to that model - become enlightened - then we can eliminate our own suffering. In the case of your friend it appears that he was probably not capable of that during that lifetime. That is Karma - not everybody has access to Buddhism in every one of their lifetimes.

Is there any Buddhist equivalent to this Christian emphasis on Love, or does Buddhism merely prescribe “right action” to deal with such suffering. Where is the Love, in the words of one song?

“Love others as you love yourself” - Bhadramayakaravyakarana sutra 91.

There are also the Four Immeasurables:[list]*]Loving Kindness.
*]Compassion.
*]Sympathetic Joy.
*]Equanimity.[/list]Which are to be applied to all living beings.

Thanks if you get around to it. It would help enlighten me at least.

I hope I have been able to help somewhat. Thank you for the interesting questions.

God Bless.

Thank you.

rossum


#13

Yes, you have and thank you for your detail and frankness. I much appreciate it as it leads me to understand more.

When you say above rossum that the 4 Immeasurables are “applied to all living beings”, does the latter include all animals? I’ve read that Buddhism teaches that animals may also possess Buddha nature and, of course, I take it a tenet of Buddhism that a human may come back in a future life as an animal and an animal as a human. I believe the Buddha also stated that animals around us may have been our parents or friends in past rebirths. Is this true and, if so, is there a normative difference between humans and the animal world in Buddhist thought? Is the animal just as worthy of dignity as the human in that both possess Buddha nature and are sentient? Or is a human life of higher value in Buddhism than an animal life and, if so, how?

In Christianity of course we believe humanity is unique among all the creatures in the world as we alone are made in God’s image and we alone possess souls. The difference is in kind and not degree. I assume to a Buddhist this would be “heresy” for lack of a better term, no?

And how far down the animal chain does Buddhist consciousness go. I know of Eastern religions that Jainism goes the farthest in claiming normative equality between insects and humans (i.e. covering up mouth with fabric so as not to accidentally swallow an insect) but where does Buddhism draw the line in the animal world. How far “down” for lack of a better term can Buddha nature go: is it also possessed by insects or merely mammals?

I apologize if some of the questions may seem rudimentary but it appears you are quite “enlightened” :wink: in explaining these differences.

I hope I have not asked too much. Regards, Andrew.


#14

arunangelo, this is your thread. If you want these discussions of Buddhism in a different thread then we can take them there.

Yes.

I’ve read that Buddhism teaches that animals may also possess Buddha nature and, of course, I take it a tenet of Buddhism that a human may come back in a future life as an animal and an animal as a human. I believe the Buddha also stated that animals around us may have been our parents or friends in past rebirths. Is this true

Yes. You may be reborn: in the heavens as a god, on earth as a human, on earth as an animal or in one of the hells. Both heavens as hells are temporary.

if so, is there a normative difference between humans and the animal world in Buddhist thought? Is the animal just as worthy of dignity as the human in that both possess Buddha nature and are sentient? Or is a human life of higher value in Buddhism than an animal life and, if so, how?

There is much less difference between animals and humans in Buddhism than there is in Christianity. All will eventually attain nirvana and none have a soul. Since humans usually have much more consciousness than most animals humans are generally considered as superior. As a rule of thumb, the larger the animal the more serious the fault in killing it. All living beings are a continuous series of lives which may be lived as gods, humans, animals or in a hell; since every current human has probably been, and probably will be, an animal Buddhists see much less difference between humans and animals than Christians do.

In Christianity of course we believe humanity is unique among all the creatures in the world as we alone are made in God’s image and we alone possess souls. The difference is in kind and not degree. I assume to a Buddhist this would be “heresy” for lack of a better term, no?

In Buddhist terms the difference is one of degree. The standard Buddhist analysis of a human is into five aggregates:[list]*]form: physical body.
*]feelings: pleasant, neutral, unpleasant.
*]perceptions: sight etc.
*]impulses: habits and accumulated karma.
*]consciousness: self awareness.[/list]
Higher animals have all of these but in general they have a much reduced consciousness; there are only a few species that can pass the mirror test of self awareness. The major point of this analysis is that none of the five are an eternal soul."All the elements of reality are soulless."
When one realises this by wisdom,
then one does not heed ill.
This is the Path of Purity.

Dhammapada 20:7

And how far down the animal chain does Buddhist consciousness go.

Buddhists differ on this one. I tend to err on the side of safety and try not to deliberately injure any living thing.

I apologize if some of the questions may seem rudimentary but it appears you are quite “enlightened” :wink: in explaining these differences.

I may be reasonably good at explaining things, but alas I am very far from being enlighened. :frowning:

The best description of enlightenment from a Christian point of view I have seen is by Thomas Merton in his Asian Journal, describing hie experience at Polonnaruwa.

rossum


#15

You’re entlightened, you were just checking to see if I caught the missing “t” and whether I was following your answers:D

In all seriousness, I’d like to thank you for your detailed answers rossum. Actually cleared up a couple of things for me. Regards, Andrew.:slight_smile:


#16

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